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Introduction to Spiritual Theology 5162B
History of Catholic Spirituality
The First to the Fifteenth Century 

Thursday, 9:30 am - 11:20 am
January - April 2011
St. Peter's Seminary

Instructor: Rev. Rev. Frank O'Connor, BA, MA BTh, STM, STL, MTh

519-432-1824, ext. 235     E-mail:
Office hours by appointment or by contacting the above number or e-mail address


A historical survey of Christian spirituality from the apostolic age to the reformation. Themes include the desert tradition, martyrdom, monasticism, Franciscan and Dominican spirituality, late medieval mysticism, the imitation of Christ, and icons and prayer. Connection are made to some contemporary figures and movements.


1. To investigate the main trends, issues and developments in Christian Spirituality from post-apostolic age to the 15th century.
2. To explore the question: “How have Christians throughout history understood what it is to seek and know God?”
3. To seek a deeper understanding and appreciation of the heritage of Christian Spirituality in order to shed light on, and give assistance to, our present spiritual journey, both communal and personal.
4. To provide a framework within which to appreciate various spiritual schools, movements, and writings both in themselves and in their relationship with one another.
5. To make contact with the history and writings of the great saints and mystics of the Christian tradition as well as those of the principal schools of spirituality.
6. To provide knowledge and encouragement so that students can develop their own personal spirituality.
7. To begin to develop in the students the skills that will assist them to serve as spiritual guides to other people in their future ministries.

1. To know the historical and cultural contexts within which the great spiritual guides developed their spiritual writings.
2. To understand and acquaint oneself with the primary texts of great spiritual authors, communities and movements in the tradition of spiritual theology.
3. To grasp the connection between classical spiritual teachings and their contemporary expressions, understanding both the continuity and the differences.
4. To understand and appreciate the variety of spiritual paths witnessed to by the many schools and movements within the one Christian Catholic Tradition.
5. To understand and appreciate the teachings of other spiritual traditions within both the Christian and other faith traditions.
6. To have a knowledge of the aberrations and errors within the Christian Spiritual Tradition as well as their remedies, in order to be able to detect and address similar aberrations and errors today.
7. To understand the nature of spiritual theology, its methodology and the various theological distinctions in order to develop tools for a critical analysis of texts, communities, structures and movements.

1. To enable the student to interpret and analyze a primary text of a great spiritual writer in the social, cultural and ecclesial context of its time.
2. To enable the student to detect and understand those unchanging values of the Christian Spiritual Tradition that are still found in our time, while being able to know and set in context those dimensions of the Tradition which are historically and culturally conditioned.
3. To enable the student to articulate, in both oral and written forms, the principal elements of the Christian Catholic Tradition of spiritual theology.
4. To enable students to express their own personal spirituality as related to the authentic spiritual tradition of the Church, and at the same time to be able to appreciate those authentic spiritualities to which they are not drawn, but to which they may be called to minister.
5. To enable the student to appreciate the spiritualities of the Christian East and West, as well as those found in our secular society.
6. To enable the student to detect those movements of the spirits that are divisive and destructive of the path toward union with God, so that he/she may be able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the healing and reconciliation needed to recover authenticity and life.

1. To acquire a love for the marvelous working of the Spirit of Jesus Christ throughout our whole Christian tradition.
2. To have a critical openness to, and capacity to learn from, both the good and bad in our Christian Catholic Tradition of spirituality.
3. To appreciate the great variety of ways the Holy Spirit is present: in the human heart, in our communal life together, in societal structures, in social movements throughout our human history, and in the beauty of creation.
4. To value one’s personal spiritual life as a response to the invitation to life in union with our Triune God, and to nourish this grace-filled life by prayer and an ever more faithful living of the Gospel. 


    (** indicates contemporary persons or themes of the 20th - 21st Centuries) 

    Jan. 6 Introduction
    Scripture and the Apostolic Church
           L. Dupre. Light from Light, General Introduction pp. 1-14
         C. Healey. Christian Spirituality.  Preface xi-xv


    Jan. 13       
    Martyrdom: Ignatius of Antioch and the Early Church
    **Martyrdom Today: Oscar Romero and the Latin American Church; Christian de Cherge and Africa
           L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Origen pp. 15-36
         C. Healey. Christian Spirituality.  Spiritual Writers of the Early Church pp. 1-26
    Watch Video "Romero"

    The Desert

    Jan. 20 St. Antony and the Desert Fathers: Discerning the Spirit
    Alexandrian and Antiochean Traditions
    Seminar #1**Charles de Foucauld & The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus:
    Presence in the World

           C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality. Eastern Monasticism pp. 27-64
    Jan. 27 Cappadocians: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzen
    East to West-John Cassian, Prayer & Monasticism;

           L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Gregory of Nyssa pp. 37-54


    Feb. 3 St. Augustine's Confessions: Conversion & Grace
    Seminar #2: **Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness: Conversion and Social Involvement
           L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Augustine of Hippo pp. 55-78
         C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality. Early Western Spirituality pp. 65-90

    Community and Pastoral Presence

    Feb. 10          
    St. Benedict's Rule: Community & Prayer as a Response to the Crisis of his Times
    Seminar #3: **Brother Roger and  The Rule of Taize: Community & Reconciliation in our Time
         C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  Early Western Spirituality pp. 85-89
    Feb. 17

    Bernard of Clairvaux & School of St. Victor: Religious Orders in a time of Change
    Interpretive Essay: "Creating and Healing in History": Bernard Lonergan

           L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Pseuod-Dionysius pp. 79-94 &
                                                 Bernard of Clairvaux pp. 95-114
         C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  Early Middle Ages pp 91-136
         B. Lonergan.  "Creating and Healing in History", A Third Collection  p. 100-9
      [On Reserve]
    Feb. 24 Conference Week  Feb. 21-25 - No Class

    Poverty and Truth 

    Mar. 3 St. Francis & Clare: Poverty as a Response in a Rich Church
    Seminar #4:  **Jean Vanier & the Community of L'Arche: In Weakness Strength
           L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Francis, Clare pp. 115-130
         C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  High Middle Ages pp. 137-159
    Mar. 10 MID-TERM TEST
      [Lectures, Seminars, and Required Readings from Charles Healey, Christian Spirituality
    and Louis Dupre, From Light to Light as indicated above.]
    Mar. 17 Icons and Eastern Spirituality - Sr. Linda Thompson R.P.B.
    [Art in the Spirituality of East and West]

         C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  Byzantine Spirituality pp. 219-229
         Sr. Mary Anthony C.S.J. "Icons and Spirituality"  [On Reserve]

    Mar. 24 Thomas Aquinas & Bonaventure: Spiritual Experience and Theological Reflection


         L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Bonaventure pp. 131-152
                                                 Meister Eckhart pp. 153-181
        C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  high Middle Ages pp. 159-172

    Note:  PRESENTATION PAPER DUE TODAY, March 24, 2011 at end of class

    Prophetic Voices and Piety 

      Mar. 31        Catherine of Siena's Dialogues: The Mystic as Political
    Seminar #5**Linking East and West: Catherine de Hueck Doherty's Poustina
                               L. Dupre.  Light from Light, Catherine of Siena pp. 265-283
                               C. Healey.  Christian Spirituality.  Late Middle Ages pp. 173-193


Dupre, Louis and James A. Wiseman, Editors.
Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism, Second Edition. N.Y.: Paulist Press, 2001

Healey, Charles S.J.
Christian Spirituality: An Introduction to the Heritage. New York: Alba House, 1999.





II. PRESENTATION PAPER - Lenten Evening with a Saint



Each seminar should deal with three areas:

1. The Historical Context: Briefly locate the person or movement within the political, economic and social reality of the times.

2. The Person or Community or Movement: Present significant data of their life or foundation, along with works and writings for which they are noted. Indicate their influence in their own time and following ages.

3. Primary Sources: This involves the reading and presentation of some of the actual writings of the person or movement. Art or music associated with the topic might be important.


I. Each seminar should provide a handout with quotes from primary sources.

(The Professor will see that the material is run off for the class provided that it is received 24 hours before the class presentation. If not, each group will be responsible for it at their own expense.)

ii. Where two people present a seminar together, one grade will be given for the seminar as a whole and each person in the group will receive the same mark. It will be based on how well the above objectives have been realized and how well the presenters worked as a whole to prepare and present the topic.

iii. Length of Seminar Presentations:

+ 30 min. Presentation
+ 10 min. Discussion
+ 10 min. For professor to summarize.


Each person in the seminar group will write up his/her own reflection paper. It is due at the end of class one week after the seminar has been presented in the class.
The reflection paper will be a minimum of four and a maximum of five pages - typewritten and double-spaced. A bibliography must be included.

The paper will have three parts:

1. Tradition: This will be a presentation of two or three significant teachings or actions of the person, community or movement studied that struck you as important in preparing for the seminar.

2. Personal Reflection: What has this meant to me? How is it related to my personal life?

3. Pastoral Implications: What does this have to say to our pastoral practice or attitude today?  How is this similar to, or different from, our pastoral experiences or needs today?

II: PRESENTATION PAPER - Lenten Evening with a Saint

Those who do this Presentation Paper will prepare a Lenten Evening with a Saint that would be appropriate to present in a parish setting (8 to 10 pages).
The paper should footnote the references and include a bibliography. You must choose one of the persons that is included in the list given by the professor. Since a survey course of the early Christian period up to 1500 does not allow us time to give an exhaustive treatment to any of these figures your research will allow you to be enriched, and also in the future those you will serve in your ministry.

More information on the nature of this presentation and its requirements will be given in the first class lecture.

The final paper is due on Tuesday, March 24, 2011 at the end of class.

During the class on March 24th time will be set aside for a conversation in which those who did thepaper can share the fruit of their work with the who


Mid-Term Test   30
Seminar [Same Mark for All] 20  
Reflection Paper 20  
Presentation Paper 40  
Final Oral Exam   30
Total   100


1. Policies regarding Submission of Assignments and Tests

a. It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments can be completed on time.
b. Assignments are to be handed in at the class on the due date. Assignments may not be dropped off at King’s or submitted electronically.
c. For a serious reason, a student may be granted an extension. On the form provided, the student is to write a brief explanation of the reason for the extension. This is to be signed by the teacher, with the extended date noted. A copy of the extension notice is given to the Dean.
d. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean’s Office.
e. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.
f. No electronic devices will be allowed during tests or the examination, unless approved in advance by Student Services at the University or King’s. (This refers to students with disabilities who have permission to use a word processor to write their exams/tests.)
g. Students who miss tests will negotiate a “make-up” date with the professor. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean’s Office.

2. Internet References

If references are given from internet sites the exact designation of the site must be given along with a hard copy of the page from which the quote is taken or to which the reference is made.

3. Academic Offenses

a. “Scholastic offenses are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offense, at the following web site:“
b. “All required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of plagiarism. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and (”

4. MLA Style

The MLA Style (Modern Language Association) is to be used in writing your papers: in the Bibliography/Works Cited and in the quotations in the text.

H. BIBLIOGRAPHY (* On Reserve)

a. PRIMARY SOURCES [Related to the sections of the Course]

* Rahner, Karl, S.J., “Towards a Fundamental Theological Interpretation of Vatican II”, in Theological Studies, December 1979, pp. 716-727.


Schoedel, William. Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985. (Romans, pp. 163-191). See also Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. III, pp. 320-321; 324-325; 329-330.

Romero, Archbishop Oscar. Voice of the Voiceless. New York: Orbis Books, 1985. ("Louvain Address", "Letter to President Carter", "Last Homily", pp. 177-193).

-------. A Shepherd's Diary. Montreal: Novalis, 1993.

*Video. “Romero”

* O’Connor, T. Francis, “Culture and Counter-Culture: The Prophetic Role of Religious Life as an Integral Part of the Life and Mission of the Church in Our Present Day World”, Unpublished Paper, March 26, 2000


Merton, Thomas, trans. The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century. New York: New Directions Books, 1960. pp. 25-43.

Athanasius, St., The Life of Antony and Letter to Marcellus. New York: Paulist Press, 1980. ( Life of Antony, pp. 29-99).

Cassian, John. Conferences. Introduction by Owen Chadwick. New York: Paulist Press, 1985. ("On Prayer", Conferences Nine and Ten, pp. 101-140).


Augustine, St. Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1984. ("Confessions", Books 8 & 9: pp. 80-121; "The Rule of St. Augustine", pp. 479-493).

Day, Dorothy. The Long Loneliness. New York: Harper & Bros.,1952. (Part Two: "Natural Happiness", pp. 113-166).


Benedict, St. The Way to God According to the Rule of St. Benedict. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Pub., 1983. ("The Rule", pp. 217-298; especially Prologue and chapters 1-7, pp. 219-241).

Roger, Brother. Parable of Community: The Rule and Other Basic Texts of Taize. New York. Seabury Press, 1981. ("The Rule", pp. 9-47).


Gregory the Great, St. Pastoral Care. N.Y.: Newman, 1978.

Bernard, St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. ("On Conversion" pp. 65-98; "Sermons on the Song of Songs" pp. 207 ff.)

* Lonergan, Bernard J. A Third Collection. “Creating and Healing in History”, New York: Paulist Press, 1985, pp.100-9.


Francis of Assisi, St. and St. Clare. Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. New York: Paulist Press, 1982. (Francis' Letters to Clergy, Order, and Faithful, pp. 49-51, 55-61, 66-73; Clare's 4th. Letter to Agnes, pp.203-206).

Bonaventure, St. Bonaventure. New York: Paulist Press, 1978.("The Souls Journey Into God", Chapter Seven, pp. 110-116; "the Tree of Life", pp. 153-158; 169-175).

Vanier, Jean. An Ark for the Poor. Toronto: Novalis, 1995

-------, Becoming Human. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1998.

Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert and Thomas: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1988. ("Inaugural Lecture" pp. 353-360, "From the Lectures on Matthew" pp. 445-475, “Prayer : Summa Theologiae II. II, Question 83" pp. 476ff.).

Principe, Walter H. Thomas Aquinas' Spirituality. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1984.

Doherty, Catherine de Hueck. Poustinia: Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1975. (pp. 1-47, 200-216).

* Hartleib, Sr. Mary Anthony C.S.J. “Icons and Spirituality”, Unpublished Paper, March 14, 2002.


Catherine, St. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue. New York: Paulist Press, 1980. ("The Dialogue", pp. 29-33, 48-50, 273-276, 361-366).

Julian of Norwich. Julian of Norwich: Showings. New York: Paulist Press, 1978. ( "God as Mother" and "The Courtesy of God" see references in "Preface" pp.8-11).

Thomas a Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1984. (Book II, 1-6, pp.79-88; Book III, 3, 14-15, pp. 111-114, 134-137).



[Please Print]


A. Choose either Presentation Paper or Seminar/ Reflection Paper

.......... Presentation Paper on a Lenten Evening with a Saint
.......... Seminar and Reflection Paper

B. If you chose the Seminar and Reflection paper indicate below your THREE choices in order of preference with #1 being your first choice:

Seminar Assignments

 .......... Seminar 1. Jan. 26: Charles de Foucauld

 .......... Seminar 2. Feb. 9: Dorothy Day

 .......... Seminar 3. Feb. 24: Brother Roger and the Taize Community

 .......... Seminar 4. Mar. 16: Jean Vanier and the L'Arche Community

 .......... Seminar 5. Mar. 23: Catherine e Hueck Doherty and Madonna House